When I started planning our trip to Belize and first thought of staying in an eco-lodge, I never thought it would be like Black Rock Lodge. Yes, there were some basic qualities the hotel had to meet – in the jungle, have hammocks and iguanas, etc. – but Black Rock Lodge has now set the standard for unique, amazing, holy-crap-can-this-place-be-real-types of adventures.
So, how does one begin a post like this?
Do I mention the drive into the jungle, three miles of rolling hills, rocky roads over waterfalls, and thick, beautiful vegetation?
Or do I mention the beautiful facade of the resort, complete with tropical blooms and open-air, thatched huts overlooking the jungle beyond?
Or maybe I start with the tasty welcome cocktail.
No. Let’s start with the fact that this place looks like a real-life Jurassic Park, with just a touch of Indiana Jones awesomeness thrown in.
Welcome to Black Rock Lodge, Belize.
With tree trunks wider than a car, leaves bigger than roofs, and an astonishing amount of lizards scurrying around the hand-built stone walls that separate the jungle walkways from the inviting, exotic cliffs and river below. The vivid greens of leaves and plants provide a beautiful contrast to the brown, thatched huts of the open-air dining room, and the river below supplies a silvery mist that constantly flows over the hills on which Black Rock Lodge is situated.
Upon arrival, after ooh’ing and ahh’ing a good amount, we headed towards the beautiful dining room – and ran into a color-changing lizard before we’d gone more than 20 steps. After stumbling over ourselves to take pictures (after all, it was obviously a baby dinosaur,) we entered the great room of the lodge, where we were greeted with our choice of cocktail by the very, very friendly manager of the lodge.
While overlooking the river below and jungle beyond (and attempting to not get distracted by the actual-legitimate-real-life jungle beyond,) she gave us a very detailed run down of the resort, from the complimentary offerings to history of the lodge to the flora and fauna of the property. We didn’t even have to deal with carrying our luggage, as a resort porter kindly took our keys to take the bags to our rooms.
While learning about the resort, and silently wiling the parrots to come land on my hand (who wouldn’t be willing that, right?) our hostess directed our bags to go to rooms 19 & 20 – alarming, as we had booked and were told we’d be in Cabin 5, facing the jungle with partial views down to the river below.
“Oh, no,” whispered I, to my boyfriend. “The guy who booked us online said Cabin 5 was the best one of the standard rooms.” Fortunately, before I could fret too much, our hostess addressed the issue in the best way possible: “Good news for you both,” she said. “You’ve been upgraded to our luxury riverfront suites, the best and newest rooms on the property.”
#yaaaaaaaaas. Away we went to explore our jungle home for the next four days.
This is a blank headline, because I have literally NO WORDS.
It took a good 10 minutes of stupidly smiling, wide-eyed starting, and mumbling under my breath “woaaaaaaaah,” before the wonder of our settings sat in. Our cabin’s outdoor area featured dual rainbow-colored hammocks, each gentle swaying over the generously sized deck, built into the cliffside over the Macaw River below. Inside, the room was luxurious as they come, with a modern and inviting sitting room, featuring a wrap-around couch, native art, comfy throw pillows, and wall-to-wall windows (with screens, of course.)
The raised up bedroom area, with an oversized bed, ceiling fan, built-in storage and comfy plush carpets was certainly as lovely as any five-star hotel in the U.S., and the bathroom region was done in white marble, with an open shower, generous amenities, and fresh flower blossoms on white fluffy bath towels. Considering our normal standard for lodging is, “well, as long as there’s not toooo many people sharing the bathroom…,” this room definitely takes the cake as the most lovely and unique place we’ve ever stayed. And yes, quote me on that.
What to do at Black Rock Lodge: a sweet night hike in the jungle.
One of the great things about Black Rock Lodge being out into the jungle is that it’s huuuuuuge. They own so much property -untouched, undeveloped jungle property – that there are endless activities leaving from your front door. On our first night, we went for a guided night hike with one of the resort’s naturalist, who seemed to have an uncanny ability to find all kinds of critters in the dark. The tour costs $15 per person and runs approximately an hour and a half, and was completely worth it. Within the first 10 minutes we had found frogs – yes, including tree frogs (those toes!) – and plenty of spiders, ranging from small-and-jumpy to ahh-that-guy-is-bigger-than-a-chihuahua. The walking tour covers various parts of the property, and you can tell the guides are super enthusiastic and passionate about the flora and fauna of the region. Little kids (or, hell, grown adults) may not enjoy all the four, eight, and hundred-legged jungle friends you’ll come across, but if you want to see a side of the jungle you’d probably walk right by otherwise (like glow-in-the-dark scorpions,) you should definitely sign up for this.
What to do at Black Rock Lodge: climb a jungle peak.
Anyone who reads this blog (or even just looked at the URL) knows I love to hike! And I always prefer travel and vacations that have outdoor things to do. Clearly, a lodge in the jungle ticks that box.
One morning, after the resort’s delicious Belizean breakfast, we filled our camelbaks, took a hand-drawn map from the main office, and began the trek to the Mountain Summit. The trail is steep and winding, and the air is hot and heavy: if you didn’t feel like you were in the jungle before, you will now. We also happened to be doing the trail a few weeks after a large hurricane had swept through the area (and, in fact, flooded part of the resort,) so we did a fair bit of climbing though, under, between and around fallen trees and branches. Just added to the adventure, if you ask me.
I’d estimate that the hike was about a mile and a half, and offers a few vista points looking down on the river below. Plus, there are a few cave openings along the way and, if you’ve already gone on the night hike, you can practice your tarantula finding skills on the rock walls along the bath. If you have the athletic prowess for it, this is truly a hike that ought not be missed. When else do you get to stand alone on a peak in the middle of the jungle?
What to do at Black Rock Lodge: an adventurous float down a jungle river.
Okay, this one I was a little hesitant to do. The Macaw river, which runs in front of Black Rock Lodge, is wide and pretty quick flowing, and was made even more so by the hurricane two weeks prior. However, borrowing tubes, helmets, and life vests is totally free, and if you make it over the waterfall in front of the lodge without flipping, you’ll earn yourself a free beer. Who could resist that?
The hike to the starting point of the tube trip is along the shore of the river, across a few jungle streams and through a few exotic and beautiful valleys. It’s flat and not challenging at all, but you will be lugging your inflated raft, life vest, and helmet with you, so its a little bulky. The walk is about 30 minutes long, which is the perfect amount of time to imagine what you’d do if a jaguar just happened to cross your path. Personally, I was hoping to see a Tapir, but I guess a jaguar would have been cool, too.
Once you arrive at the shore where you’ll drop your floats in the river, the adventure begins! As soon as you’re lowered into your float you’ll start moving, and moving fast! You’ll need to paddle, kick, and steer to avoid trees and the shoreline, but most of the time, you’ll need to be admiring the views. Tiny you on your tiny raft will be floating on a big river in a bigger valley in a bigger jungle, and you’ll have verdant, lush rainforest and huge, landscape-defining mountains in the distance.
It’s a little more active than your normal river float, and you’ll have various small waterfalls to navigate. Hopefully you’ll have gotten enough practice in in about 30 minutes, as that’s when you’ll come to the big waterfall in front of the lodge. The lodge staff will know when you’re coming, and if you can make it over the waterfall without flipping your tube, a beer is on the house! Don’t worry if you don’t make it, as only about 10% do. The trick, we’re told, is to lean back when your tube goes forward, and forward when it goes back.
(I didn’t flip, by the way.)
Other FANTASTIC things about Black Rock Lodge
I could go on and on about this place, but I think this is already my longest post ever! So here’s a smattering of other fantastic things about the property:
- The Food: The food here was DELICIOUS and always super fresh. Breakfast and lunch are affordably priced (USD $6 – $9) and made to order, featuring flapjacks, eggs, salads, sandwiches, and other light bites. Dinner, however, is a whole ‘nother story, with a set meal every night for a flat USD $22. There’s always a vegetarian option, and you’ll get a four-course meal for the price. Dinner is also family-style, which means you’ll be seated with other guests. With the exception of the gun-toting rednecks we sat with one night (who I guess at least were entertaining,) everyone we sat with was delightful and added a fun element to every meal. Dinner starts at 7, so go early for a good cocktail, good conversation with the staff, and complimentary tasty appetizers before the meal.
- The facilities: Areas I didn’t explore include a spring-fed infinity pool, an open-air yoga
studio, and a beach area by the river with rope swings and huge, island-sized rocks.
- Bird Watching: We didn’t manage to do the bird watching trip as it would have required us to wake up, well, early early, but it’s complimentary for those so inclined. The Resort offers a three-story bird watching tower, perfect for watching the parrots, toucans, birds of prey and more that call the treetops home.
- Sustainability Tours: Black Rock Lodge is 100% off-the-grid, which means they produce all their own power and have their own water sources. The staff there will be happy to give you a complimentary tour of their operation to check out the crops and farm animals, and to explore the solar and water filtration operations they’ve set up to be as kind to the environment as
- Shuttles and Activity Concierge: We rented a car, so we didn’t take advantage of this too much, but the hotel can arrange in advance plenty of activities and transportation, from cave tours to airport transfers and cacao making classes! Each room has a wonderful book of area activities, or you can find the full list of things to do online right here. We used their services for the ATM Cave tour and really enjoyed it.
Oh, and did I mention it’s totally affordable?
Our room, with a summer discount, cost $80 a night. $80. That’s it. Comparable lodges are upwards of three or four hundred USD a night, which is just more than we could ever afford – and they don’t have, in my opinion, the charm of this place. And even if we could afford it, we’d prefer to spend that money on experiences, not lodging. That’s why Black Rock Lodge literally can’t be beat. And the service is top notch, as you can see from their unbelievably good reviews on TripAdvisor.com.
This is one the best resorts I have ever stayed in. EVER. It’s magical, pristine, and so incredibly unique, from the unexpected jungle thunderstorms in the distance to the howler monkeys in the jungle canopy. Please, do yourself a favor and make plans now to visit this amazing, remote jungle lodge, before it becomes the latest, greatest next thing.
- BlackRockLodge.com (they just redid this site and it looks amazing)
- Negroman Road, Black Rock, San Ignacio 00001, Belize
- Visit them on Facebook or Instagram
- Rates starting from $76.50 USD per night.
OH! And finally, for those of you who made it allllll the way down here – the little color-changing lizard we saw? Turns out it was the first one of that species ANYONE had ever seen in Belize. Just discovered a new species, NBD.